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U.S. Appeals Court Upholds Order Closing PLO Office in Washington

August 8, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The State Department’s order last year closing the Palestine Liberation Organization’s information office here was unanimously upheld Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Writing for the three-judge panel, Judge Abner Mikva said the PLO representatives are free “to express whatever ideas they wish,” but they are not free to “set up an office that functions as a foreign mission when the State Department finds that the national interest requires otherwise.”

A spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the office and its director, Hasan Abdel Rahman, said it had not been decided yet whether to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

The appeals court upheld a decision issued last December by U.S. District Court Judge Charles Richey that the State Department order had not violated any constitutional rights, including that of freedom of speech. Richey said the claim that it had was “utterly meritless.”

The State Department, under pressure from Congress, ordered the office closed last September, “to demonstrate United States concern over terrorism committed and supported by organizations and individuals affiliated with the PLO.”

The department said it could close the Washington office because it considered it a foreign mission. It denied that this was a violation of the First Amendment protection of speech, since Rahman and other employees of the Palestine Information Office, all American citizens, are free to continue advocating their cause.

However, a later effort by the Reagan administration to close the PLO’s observer mission at the United Nations was rejected in June by U.S. District Court Judge Edward Palmieri in New York, on the grounds that it would violate the agreement that established the United Nations headquarters in New York.

The administration has until Aug. 28 to appeal Palmieri’s ruling. No decision has been made on whether to do so.

The appeals court ruling was hailed Friday by Phil Baum, associate executive director of the American Jewish Congress.

“We are gratified that the courts have once again upheld the resolve of this country to act effectively against the scourge of modern terrorism,” Baum said.

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